The Americans with Disabilities Act, also known as ADA, is nothing new. First implemented in 1990, it was the United States government’s first step toward addressing the needs of citizens living with disabilities.
Yet as technology and our culture evolved, so did the challenges faced by disabled Americans. Accessibility became a hurdle not only in the physical world but also the vast digital realm of the World Wide Web.
Below we explore not only what this law does for the disabled community, but also what it is doing to change with the times and make everyday life easier for individuals with unique needs.
The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 Explained
“The one argument for accessibility that doesn’t get made nearly often enough is how extraordinarily better it makes some people’s lives. How many opportunities do we have to dramatically improve people’s lives just by doing our job a little better?” ― Steve Krug
The original ADA was a move to combat discrimination against disabled persons by potential or existing employers, governments, and unions. In order to be covered by the ADA, you have to fit these three descriptions:
- Possess a physical or mental impairment that limits major activities in life in one or more ways
- Possess a record detailing your impairment
- Be regarded as currently having the recorded impairment
This law is broken down into various titles to cover various needs.
Title I of ADA Explained
Title I tackles discrimination in the workplace. It requires employers to make reasonable accommodations for applicants or employees with disabilities, should they be qualified to perform the job expectations with them. This can include:
- Providing an interpreter for the deaf
- Adapting a facility’s accessibility
- Adapting work schedules or reassigning to a better-suited position should the disability impede upon one’s performance
- Utilizing or adapting the right technology, materials, resources, or policies to accommodate the individual’s needs
However, these expectations do have limitations. If the process of adapting to the individual’s needs causes undue hardship on the business, such as extreme difficulty or expense, then the ADA will not require an employer to adapt.
While ADA is an active law, it’s important to know that in order for it to be put into action, an employee or applicant must ask for assistance from the company. This means requesting specific accessibility accommodations directly.
Under this law, an employer cannot pry into the details of one’s disability. They can only ask about the person’s ability to perform their job. Any request for medical examination is only valid if the same request is made of all employees.
Simply put, the ADA is designed to protect the disabled in applying for and holding jobs they are qualified to perform but may need reasonable assistance due to limitation caused by their impairment. This standard also includes accommodations for clients or customers.
Title II, Title III, and Title V Explained
Title II of the ADA focuses on eliminating discrimination in the realm of local and state governments. This includes any services, programs, and activities provided through these entities. Title III adds these standards to privately-owned businesses and commercial facilities.
This means the standards for equal opportunities extends through education, public accommodation, and public transportation.
Title V is a blanket section that spans certain conditions and provisions on how ADA can be implemented.
But what about Title IV? There’s a reason why we set this section apart from the others. As one of the newest additions to this law, it covers a very important aspect of life: telecommunication.
The Importance of the Title IV Revision to Modern Living
The Title IV amendment came in 2008. From telephonic communications to the internet, television, and other digital services, it was apparent that Americans with disabilities needed special accommodations. Everyday tasks such as surfing the web or watching television ranged from inconvenient to impossible with hearing, vision, or other physical impairments.
Thus, Title IV set a new standard for telecommunications. Through it, certain requirements came into effect for digital communications, including closed captioning and guidelines for web accessibility.
These guidelines include site navigation, alt text for photos, and other information shared through web content or applications.
Want to learn more about how you can improve accessibility within your business? Great! Take a moment to reach out to us. We can provide the insight and resources to place you on the path of adapting to the needs of your employees and customers.